A Christmas Present Wrapped with a Bowie

We’re Dreaming Of a Thin White Duke

The L.A.-based Troubadour Theater Company delivers Shakespeare the way “The Daily Show” delivers news. Not only do they give those classic texts a comic twist, they supercharge them with classic rock, tear through the fourth wall like escaped lunatics, and seal it all with a depth of acting talent that gives the language the heft it requires.

Little Drummer Bowie PosterIn nearly 20 years of suturing songbooks and Shakespeare they have annually produced such hits as Much Adoobie Bros About Nothing, A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream, Two Gentlemen of Chicago, Fleetwood Macbeth, and Hamlet, Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark.

Each December since 2002, however, the ‘Troubies’ have turned their attentions to holiday fare, and produced original shows at Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Burbank. Among the standouts have been A Stevie Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carole King, Santa Claus is Coming to Motown, and Walkin’ in a One-Hit Wonderland.

This year, the obvious choice was to bring back 2005’s Little Drummer Bowie, which uses David Bowie’s music to energize the story as told in the 1968 stop-action film.

“We just lost David Bowie this year,” says Joseph Leo Bwarie, who plays the little drummer, Ziggy, and co-directs with company founder Matt Walker. “But we also lost Garry Marshall. So the entire show this time is completely different.” One significant change is that Bowie will be more prominent, with about 20 songs instead of 14 used before.

“The show still has so much heart. Bowie’s music itself is so moving and emotionally based.”

Little Drummer Bowie
Joseph Leo Bwarie, center, with Rick Batalla, Lisa Valenzuela, Niles Rivers, Katie DeShan, Katie Kitani, and Cloie Wyatt Taylor. Photo by Sasha A. Venola.

Another change is that more than half the nine-member cast are new Troubies. And, for the first time, Walker is not among the veterans, who are Rick Batalla, Lisa Valenzuela, Beth Kennedy and Bwarie, who is returning after spending most of the past five years as Frankie Valle in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys.

Once the show is up, Walker will head to Seattle to direct The 39 Steps. But the Troubies are the focus, and he is now looking to take a show to New York in the years ahead. That is part of the reason for the greater emphasis on music.

“It’s sort of stripped down so there’s a more ‘New York-Broadway’ vibe,” he says. “There are snippets of more songs used to tell the story. But the show still has so much heart. Bowie’s music itself is so moving and emotionally based. And Garry’s essence and residual input is still very much a part of this and everything we do. This production is dedicated to him.”

Raising the Orange Curtain

In June 2017, the Troubies return to Shakespeare Orange County, where they presented A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream in SOC’s Garden Grove amphitheater in 2015. This time it’s Fleetwood Macbeth, which ended with Macbeth’s severed head singing Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide.”

“Not sure this time,” Walker says. “We always keep things topical and with the recent election, by the time we get to June I’m sure there’ll be a lot more material to consider. We’ll just have to dust off the catalog and see what songs we can use …”

Little Drummer Bowie
now through January 15
Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, CA 91505
818-955-8101 • www.falcontheatre.com


 

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Cristofer Gross
Cristofer Gross

Cristofer Gross began reviewing theater in 2006. He launched Theatertimes.org, for which he is sole writer, in 2005 after leaving Orange County’s South Coast Repertory, where he had been Public Relations Director since 1983. Prior to his 22 years in theater, he was an editor of a western regional inflight magazine based in Orange County, and before that co-editor of a biweekly music newspaper in Philadelphia, where he lived briefly after graduating from the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism in 1975.

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